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The Eminence Warriors hosted the Owen County Rebels on Jan. 22 in the first round of the All A Classic after losing to the Rebels just six days earlier in a similar scenario.
Whether you attribute it to a hot start for the Rebels or a slow start for the Warriors, the first period of both games was the downfall for Eminence.
After tying the score at 2-2 on a 15-foot jumper by Jalen Dixie, the Warriors were hit with a 12-0 run that put them in a hole with just 4:02 gone in the game. The Warriors managed to cut two points off the lead in the final 3:58 of the opening period but still trailed 16-6 going into the second period.
“We just missed wide open looks,” EHS Coach Chris Nethery said. “We executed offensively but we didn’t finish. We also gave up way too many offensive rebounds in the first half.”
The Warriors played better defense in the second period and were able to go on a 6-0 run to start the quarter. The run consisted of two 3-pointers from Jake McKinley and Dixie to cut the lead to 16-12 with 6:37 left in the half.
“We did a better job being in the right spot defensively on the weak side in the second quarter,” Nethery said.
From that point the teams played evenly until Rebel post man Carson Williams grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the floor and split two defenders for a rim-rattling dunk that made it 22-14 with 3:37 to go.
But the Warriors remained undaunted by the athletic display of Williams and cut the margin to five points at 24-19 on two free throws by Dixie with eight seconds left. Owen County hurried down court and found sophomore guard Chad McDonald open two steps behind the 3-point arc. McDonald let fly as the horn sounded and the ball banked in to give the Rebels an eight-point lead at halftime.
The banked 3-pointer seemed to restore the Rebels’ momentum to start the third period as they reeled off a 10-2 run in the first 2:28 of the half. At 5:32 the Warriors trailed 37-21 which forced Nethery to call a timeout.
“They came out and punched us in the face to start the third quarter,” Nethery said. “They made adjustments at halftime that played to their strengths.”
The Warriors recovered after the timeout and managed to cut into the lead. A runner in the lane by Dixie cut the lead to nine points at 39-30 with three minutes left in the third period.
The Rebels’ Jarrod Ball responded 26 seconds later with a 3-pointer from the corner to push the lead back out to 12 points. Williams added two free throws at 1:57 to extend the lead back out to 14 points.
Dixie scored the last four points of the period on a runner and two free throws to cut it to 10 points at 46-36.
Ball opened the scoring in the final period with an old-fashioned three-point play before Eminence went on a 7-0 run to cut it to six. Cornelius Sanford’s steal and layup finished the run.
The game of runs continued as Owen County answered with a seven-point run of their own that concluded with a three-point play by Williams.
The Warriors came back with a 3-pointer by Sanford and a three-point play by Jake McKinley who was fouled while finishing off a layup on a nice pass from Dixie. That made it 56-49 with 4:28 to go.
A Dixie runner cut it two five points after Owen County had missed the front end of two bonus situations and the Rebels seemed to be reeling.
After Williams hit two free throws with 2:14 to go Dixie hit a turnaround, fade away jumper from 16 feet to make it 60-55.
On the Rebels’ next possession Williams was called for an offensive foul which gave the Warriors the chance to cut it to two or three points but the Rebels got a defensive stop and Tucker Trenary scored inside while getting fouled. He hit the free throw to extend the lead back to eight with 1:43 left.
From there the Rebels hit their free throws and managed the clock well to pull out a hard-fought 72-61 victory.
“We cut it to five midway through the fourth period,” Nethery said. “We forced some turnovers and hit some big shots, but they hit their free throws down the stretch. They didn’t miss any free throws in the last three minutes.”
Nethery was glad to see his team continue to fight back all night after getting down early in each half.
“I was proud of them for fighting back when we got down by 16,” he said. “We played hard all night, but, in a game like that, every possession matters and we gave up too many easy possessions.”
The loss drops Eminence to 2-14 on the season while Owen County improved to 9-5 and moved on to face Williamstown in the semifinals of the tournament.